Narita Airport in Tokyo. Photo by alphacityguides.

Are you a bad traveler?

Top 5 signs you're a terrible traveler and how to fix it!

We've all seen them. They hold up lines, struggle with luggage, and argue with attendants. They're annoying, frustrating, and unfortunately, their actions and attitude tend to affect everyone in their path—effectively creating much more stressful environment. The problem is most bad travelers don't really know they're bad. They either don't see the way their actions affect others, or worse don't care. For those that don't care there is little anyone can do beyond ignoring them, however there is hope for those who might not know, and for you we've put together a short list of the warning signs and a few suggestions on how to shake your bad travel habit. 

You're Always Late

We know, we know it wasn't your fault. While that might be true every now and then, at some point a chronically late traveler needs to own up to the fact that they don't give themselves enough time. While everyone runs a little late sometimes, it happens and we're all human, there's a difference between a one off situation and those of you who believe that traffic will never be an issue, the security line won't be busy and you only need 10 minutes top make your connecting flight. You are the people who always need to skip lines because your flight is leaving in five minutes and you haven't cleared security yet. You're angry, stressed and honestly pissing off just about everyone around you, even if they're too nice to admit it. It's not surprising that most late travelers are also consistently late in every day life as well, sliding into work 10 minutes later than everyone else, or making their friends sit alone for 20 minutes at the restaurant because the transit was slow—which, side note, is also super annoying. Studies show that chronic lateness is actually a personality trait  that some people are prone to, and a habit that's extremely hard to break, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try. Lateness creates stress, annoys others and well, just seems like you don't value other peoples time. Since we know that's not your intention try these tips to shake your tardy habit.

Solution: Strategy & Understanding Time 

The obvious solution is to plan ahead to avoid being late, but that's easier said than done. People are late because they are unorganized, leave details to the last minute and truly believe they can do it all in an unrealistic time frame . Don't fool yourself into thinking you can do it all the morning of. Don't do leave stuff like packing and finding your passport down to the wire. People who are successful at time management  have a strategy for everything. They understand time and use work-back schedules to figure out when, and in which order, things need to be done. To do this take the time your flight leaves and work backwards using the average, or worst case scenario timing, to complete each small task. Breaking your tasks down into their smallest parts will help you understand more accurately the time you need to get somewhere. For instance you might think it takes one hour to get to the airport to make a fight. However if you break it down by task, you'll see that it will actually take more like an hour and a half, which would account for your late panic every time you're half and hour late for your flight. You have to account for delays and problems otherwise you're just fooling yourself. Include ample time to check in, get through security, and find your gate. Are you traveling domestic or international? Do you clear security before you leave or when you arrive? These details can easily eat up an hour or more that you didn't account for so make sure you do the math. Going further back figure out the time it takes to get to the airport—consider the time of day you're traveling and the mode of transportation you're taking. Consider rush hour traffic and subway delays, which always seem to happen when you don't give yourself enough time.

Try to get as many of the little jobs off your plate the day before you're due at the airport, that way the only things you'll need to worry are getting dressed and getting out the door. Try to go to bed the evening before with pretty much everything in order, you'll sleep better and create a much less stressful morning. Have your outfit picked out and your bags packed. Have a list of the last minute things you can't pack until just before leave, the things you use right up until you depart (toothbrush, make-up, cell phone and charger, computer, etc) so that you can quickly check off that you have packed those things before you walk out the door. Doing this will give you piece of mind that you haven't left anything behind.

Set more than one alarm on more than one device if you are traveling in the early morning. There is nothing worse than oversleeping when you need to catch a flight. Use your phone and alarm clock and set multiple alarms to ensure you don't sleep through one. If you're at a hotel don't just rely only on the wake up call, there's one too many stories of people missing meetings and flights because their wake up call mysteriously didn't happen. Bring your own alarm clock (we prefer to use our phone since we have it with us anyway) and use the hotel as your back up.

Plan your connections properly, especially if you are connecting through an airport that you've never been in before. Are you flying in and out of separate terminals? If so how long does it take to travel between them? Consider your luggage situation, if you check luggage will you have to wait for it at the carrousel and re-check it in with your next flight? If so that takes much more time. When you land take a look at a airport map to find out how far away your gate is before you head to the duty free shop to stock up on cigarettes and booze, it might be a lot further than you think leaving you sprinting through the airport when you hear your name announced over the loud speaker.

It seems like a lot of organization however setting up a system like this will mean you avoid missing flights and overall will have a more enjoyable travel experience. If you are the type of person who is late for everything do yourself and everyone else a favor and plan to be early, not on time. 

You Have 4 Suitcases and They're All Overweight.

You've stuffed everything and anything into a bag that's busting at the seams and now you're infuriated that the airline attendant is asking you to pay extra for your luggage. If you end up with your clothes and shoes strewn across the floor at the airport luggage counter, it's probably safe to say you're a terrible traveler. Just so you know, while you struggle to rearrange your life and jam everything back into your suitcase you're making people behind you late. Sure, those people probably planned ahead and accounted for your sloppiness, but it still adds to the sometimes excruciating experience of flying. Not to mention that huge bags are a pain to deal with getting to and from the airport, especially if you're taking public transit.

Solution: Learn to Pack Light

There's no need for over packing and overweight luggage, and this goes back to being planned and organized. Most people don't use half the stuff they pack on their vacations so their extra luggage just becomes an annoying burden. Minimize what you bring and be smart about your packing and you'll never run into this issue again. Check out our packing tips and learn to pack light like a seasoned traveler, so you'll never feel the stress of awkward luggage again. If you're resolved to be an over packer and must have that fifth pair of shoes buy a stupid luggage scale and weigh your luggage BEFORE you arrive so you don't waste everyone's time re-packing at the last second. 

You don't Understand Carry On Rules

You're carry on is huge, and filled with liquids and other sharp no-no's. You forget to take out your computer, when you walk through the metal detector the security alarm rings every time. When you finally make it through security you board your flight the giant carry on you brought won't fit under the seat and can't be jammed in the overhead compartment. The flight attendants are feverishly trying to get everyone seated so the aircraft can take off and you want them to help you fit your bag fit the overhead. The flight attendant will either throw their back out trying to help you or, if they're smart, take one look at your carry on and tell you it should have been checked. Did you know that flight attendants don't get compensated for injuries they incur on the job? If you packed a bag that's too heavy, it's not their responsibility to help you store it. If you think you'll have trouble putting your bag in the overhead, check it at the counter and avoid having to struggle with it, or put it under the seat.

Solution: Be Reasonable  & Learn the Rules

You can always spot a seasoned traveler in a security line. Their computer is easily reachable as are their liquids which are neatly stored in 100ml bottles secured in a TSA bag. They have their jackets off, and shoes in hand, and no jewelry or belts to trigger the alarm. Their carry on is full, but it's small enough that it easily fits both under the seat and in the overhead. The have a personal item but it's not bigger than their carry-on and it doesn't take up a lot of room. These people fly through security and never struggle to board a plane. These people know the rules and follow them, making their flight much more enjoyable than yours and they don't make any enemies in the process. There's no reason you can't do the same it just means you check the TSA rules before you pack your liquids and you keep your carry-on on the small size so it always falls in regulation. The TSA liquid rule is called the 3-1-1 rule, which means: 3.4OZ (100ml) bottles in a 1 quart see through plastic bag, 1 per person.  Carry-on size and weight limitations vary from airline to airline but are generally around 22 lbs at their maximum. Check the size of your bag in the little metal bag size checkers at the luggage counter, or just play it safe and purchase the smallest carry-on you can find so you know you're good to go.

You Can't Keep Your Cool

Everyone loses their temper every now and again, but it seems that travel has a way of bringing out the worst in some people. When flights are canceled or delayed, security give you a hard time or the hotel has lost your reservation stress builds and you start to feel out of control. If you find that when one things goes wrong it seems to create a domino effect where everything turns to problems it's probably because you aren't handling issues properly leaving you open to other mistakes and problems. 

Solution: Know How to Handle a Bad Travel Situation

Flight delays and cancelations happen to everyone, it's not a romantic part of travel but it's a reality. How you handle the situation is what determines whether or not you are a good or bad traveler. Ranting and raving at an airline or hotel attendant isn't going to fix a bad situation, but keeping your cool and reasoning with people just might. When a situation occurs that upsets your plans take a minute before you speak to someone to consider your options and what you want. Do you need to be rebooked on another airline? Are you going to miss a connecting flight and need help rescheduling that as well? If you figure out what you need before you speak to someone you are more likely to be clear with what you need, making it easier for them to help you. Also pausing for a moment will give you a chance to relax and calm down. Take a breath, if you need to walk away from the situation to get your bearings, do so, that way you won't say something irrational in the heat of the moment. Everyone is capable of letting stress push them over the edge so just be aware and know your own limits. 

Remember that the people who book the flights and rooms often have the power to figure out a solution to your problem, and are usually willing to take the time to help you if you are calm, kind, and polite. It isn't in their control if a flight is late or overbooked so yelling at them won't help. It's surprising what a simple change in attitude can do. We've seen people bumped off flights and stuck in an airport overnight with no compensation because they were rude to employees, while other people on the same flight got a hotel for the evening and upgraded on their flight the next morning. If you swear, complain and treat people with disrespect you can't expect them to go above and beyond to help you, think about it, would you help someone who yelled at you? What's that saying? You catch more flies with honey… keep that in mind and know which flies you want to catch.

You're Not Researched

You show up at your destination and you've got no idea where to catch the train, how much a taxi should be to your hotel, or how to exchange your money. Once you make it into the city you find that you're there during a local holiday and nothing is open, or maybe you didn't check the weather patterns and it's raining, for a week, the entire time you're there. This is a classic case of the un-researched and unprepared traveler. You end up having a terrible time because you didn't bother to look up anything before you trip and now all you can do is complain to anyone who'll listen about the terrible time you're having. 

Solution: Really do you have to ask?

DO YOUR RESEARCH! Guess what? If you didn't do your research and had a terrible time It's your own fault. If you have a terrible time because of some other extenuating circumstance, (which happens now and again) that's another story. With today's technology there's no reason you can't be prepared for a journey just about anywhere in the world. If you hate research, it's no problem, simpley Google a question and voila! You've got about a million answers. Or, better yet, find a guide you trust, ahem, like ours (shameless plug here) to learn about the city before you arrive. Doing a little leg work ahead of time can save you HOURS of irritation on your trip. If you're flying into a city late or leaving a city early check to see what time the transit runs. Figure out a few places you want to eat at while you're there and map out where they are, that way you can explore a neighborhood knowing that when hunger strikes, the restaurant you want to try is just around the corner. Knowing the seasonal weather means you'll not only know what to pack, but you will also be able to plan activities that make sense. Some people love research and others hate it, but those who take the time to sort out even the basics before they leave end up being much less stressed and enjoy their trip that much more.